Sometimes I Feel Like a Piece of Bologna

Friday, October 16, 2009

Being a Hospital Advocate

Doctor talking to woman in hospital

This has been one of those weeks. My hubby had lung surgery on Tuesday. It went well and he came home today. But it’s been a while since I’ve sat at the hospital for a week. Last time was the week before my stepdad passed away. This, of course, was not as intense. The surgery was serious with some unknowns, but all went very well.

One thing I learned (again) is how important it is have a healthy advocate in the room with the patient. I was able to stay aware of all of his meds, treatments, and instructions. He seemed to be groggy and not tracking well for several days. They would tell him something and 20 minutes later he was asking me what he was supposed to do. I’m sure that the anesthesia stays in the system for a few days, but whatever the cause, he really wasn’t tracking.

It’s also important that the healthy person is a little pushy. Assertive. Alert. For example, they had him on a liquid diet for several meals after the doctor had changed him to regular. Somehow the instructions didn’t make it to dietary. He’s diabetic who controls his levels with medications. They were giving him insulin with every meal – meals that were full of carbs and sugar. I was able to advocate for a better diet, get a dietary consult, and get meals substituted. I was able to ask about the meds they were giving him and question why he needed some of them. Or get the one that upset his stomach changed to something else. Yesterday a phlebotomist came in and prepared to draw several vials of blood. The nurse and PT were there, but no one questioned it. I did. Why did they need more blood? After I started asking questions, the nurse asked who had ordered the test and the PT started looking at the paperwork. Oops. Wrong patient…

This is in no way to criticize the care Hubby received. It was generally excellent. He had some amazing nurses and other caregivers. But the reality is that they are very busy. They move fast. They keep a lot in their heads. Errors happen. So it’s up to you to learn all you can and advocate for your loved one.

How do you do that?
  • Read as much as you can about your loved one’s condition. Some reliable sites for good info include Mayo Clinic, Medline,  and WebMD.
  • Ask questions. If you don’t understand the answer, ask more questions.
  • Keep good notes. A binder is helpful. You’ll be prone to forget or get confused, especially if your loved one is going to be there for a while or if his case is complex. You may be the only caregiver who has the whole picture.
  • Write down the names of the people serving you and know what they do. Don’t ask the RN to clean up the mess in the bathroom or the physical therapist to change a medication.
  • Learn the hospital routines. When are meals served? When does your doctor make rounds? Is there an ice machine or refrigerator with gelatin and puddings that you can get for your loved one? Are they measuring fluids—input and output?
Yes, it's a challenge. But I have faith. You can do it.

Photo: PicApp

3 comment(s):

Yes ma'am! I've sat with my mom through several surgeries and she has sat through several of mine. You learn to get pushy.

One time, Mom was in incredible pain and although I talked to the nurse about it several times, nothing was done. I finally went to the desk and the woman got snide with me. I just reached across the counter and yanked her up by the collar!

Finally the doctor came in and said that her self-administered morphine machine was working fine. She had been crying out--you could hear her all the way down the hall. I bullied him into giving her something else that worked better.

Oh--yes. The stories I could tell, from being both patient and caretaker. But I'm sure you've heard them all!

Great post--keep up the good work!

By Blogger Linda Yezak, at 4:09 AM  

Linda, good for you! Sounds like we are two of a kind.

Your comment on the morphine drip machine reminds me of my only surgery. I was delirious with pain and it didn't seem to be doing a thing. Hubby is less assertive than I am, so I had to keep demanding something else. I wonder if the pump doesn't work for everyone. Whatever they gave me worked much better.

By Blogger Pat, at 9:05 AM  

We have been there and know that which you speak. We are a husband-wife team with over 75 years of professional experience as in nursing-psychology and the law. We often serve to empower cargivers to advocate for their aging loved ones. We have lots of free articles and legal forms.

By Blogger Dr. Mikol Davis, at 10:29 PM  

Post a comment

<< Home